Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A very distant ROUGH-LEG but the only one on offer currently in UK

Despite a week or more of cold weather, the UK currently only has ONE wintering ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD - this individual that has been habitating Orfordness in Suffolk for the past month. It has taken to roosting regularly on the island's radar masts and can be easily seen from the footpath that runs parallel to the island about a mile and a half's walk north out of Orford....

Don't expect good views though - these are my shots taken of the bird at around 0.7 mile range

Monday, 25 November 2013

Up close and personal with an ARMENIAN STONECHAT

Spent just under an hour with an ARMENIAN-TYPE STONECHAT at the weekend, the bird performing proudly in the sunshine in St Warna's Cove, St Agnes, on SCILLY. It was favouring the sheltered beach (along with a good number of St Agnes residents and a Siberian Chiffchaff), presumably because of the rich pickings the rotting seaweed attracts. It was a first-winter male 'CASPIAN STONECHAT' - only the fourth record for Britain - and typified by its characteristic wheatear-like tail pattern, with extensive white inner webs. The rump and uppertail-coverts were still very warm coloured. It represented a British first for me and my only new bird of the year for Scilly. The following images were acquired but frustratingly, none of the open tail..........

Friday, 22 November 2013

Life Lists now updated - changes at the top

The Life Lists of the Top 1,500 birdwatchers in the UK and Ireland have been updated and there are some very interesting changes in the Top 10, including 3 new arrivals in the Top 5 and a new leader. It has been an incredible autumn with new bird after new bird for many, including Swinhoe's Petrel, Red-billed Tropicbird, Ovenbird, Dusky Thrush, White-rumped Swift, Eastern Kingbird, Myrtle Warbler, American Robin, Sora, Wilson's Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Short-billed Dowitcher, American Mourning Dove, Caspian Stonechat, Hermit Thrush, Grey-cheeked Thrush, Italian Sparrow, Parrot Crossbill, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Orphean Warbler, Semipalmated Plover, Pied Wheatear, Pallid Swift, Thick-billed Warbler, White's Thrush, Isabelline Wheatear, Asiatic Brown Shrike, Sykes' Booted Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Great Snipe, Stilt Sandpiper and Thrush Nightingale; a lot of new taxonomic changes too - won't be long now that the first birder goes through the 600 barrier!

Saturday, 16 November 2013

some outstanding footage of the Pembrokeshire ORPHEAN WARBLER

Browse here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fa14BpgTRw4

What this video does for the first time is give us a pretty good idea of the actual patterning of the outer tail feather (t6) and there is a LOT of white - far too much in my opinion for what we currently accept that a Western should so. Coupled with this is the fact that the bird has such washed out, almost Desert Lesser Whitethroat upperpart colour - not dark or grey at all like your typical hortensis. The boldly marked eye is also confusing - suggesting an adult - but just look at the restricted black ear coverts or mask. The pale eye is supposed to be a feature of adults but how soon in the first winter, first-year males acquire it is unknown (and it is mid November of course). So is this Sylvia an Eastern Orphean after all? I have emailed Israel again for further solicitation.

ORPHEAN WARBLER in Pembrokeshire

After disguising itself as a 'Lesser Whitethroat' for four days, Ian Bennell questioned the identity of a Sylvia warbler surviving in the lusciously-vegetated garden of 'Orlandon Kilns' SSE of St Brides (Pembrokeshire), following the posting of images of the bird on the Pembrokeshire Birds website on Thursday. This was no Lesser 'throat but an ORPHEAN WARBLER of species - an incredibly rare bird for Britain, perhaps only the sixth record.

As a result, around 90 people gathered at the site from dawn on Friday (16 November), the bird showing quite well from around 0720 hours for about 20 minutes. It was feeding on a favoured apple tree in the front garden and returned here on at least four occasions up until 0900 hours. It then became more mobile and was clearly following a well-rehearsed feeding circuit - being located in the thickly vegetated coppice opposite, moving sluggishly through the Elms and ivy. Often in accompaniment of a female Blackcap, the two birds worked the circuit, commuting between the wood and the section of garden by the river, taking full advantage of the many insects on offer. At around 1100 hours, it became difficult and with the crowd swelling in number, it disappeared for the best part of two hours. It reappeared after for a spell of ten minutes but then not again, until two appearances at the apple tree late afternoon, seemingly roosting in a Laurel bush not long before dark (20 feet from the apple trees). I was fortunate enough in seeing the bird on numerous occasions and was struck by its heavily restricted dark hood (in fact more of a Lesser 'throat masking) and its pale sandy-brown minula-like upperpart colour. It was a particularly washed-out bird and did not particularly strike me as 'big' - but did have a striking pearly white iris, a long black tail and a strong bill. The legs were thick slaty-grey, the primary projection was quite long and there was much white in the outer tail feather (t6). Although much of the breast was gleaming white, the lower underparts and flanks were buffish, paling to white on the undertail coverts. I could not detect the presence of any dark centres on the undertail and the upperparts were distinctly and prominently pale sandy-brown. It was quite vocal, particularly for a time in the roadside hedgerow and in ivy, uttering a Lesser Whitethroat-like 'tukk' 'tukk' contact note. A lot seemed to point towards the bird being a first-winter male WESTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER (hortensis) but only in terms of the current literature, which more and more seems to be highly contradictory.

ACCESS DIRECTIONS: In conjunction with local birders, the owners of the house very kindly agreed to allow access to their garden on Friday and Saturday - Orlandon Kilns being situated on the minor road between Dale and St Brides at SM 813 088. A local farmer kindly offered his caravan holiday field for parking, this being situated on the Haverfordwest to Dale road (the B4327) not far from Dale (at SM 814 085). Walk from here back north along the lane for around 400 yards to the dip in the valley, the property being opposite the small coppice and sallow complex.

Orlandon Kilns and its landscaped garden (the apple trees are to the left of the property and out of view in this pic)

Note the uniformity and paleness of the upperparts and the long black tail

Particularly contrasting white throat and breast with buffish flanks and lower underparts

Very restricted blackish mask but somewhat greyish cast to crown

Note extensive white in outermost tail feathers

Characteristic whitish eye, stout bill and grey in crown, thick steel-grey leg colour and pinkish-buff sides and flanks

And one of Paul Rowe's shots from today as well as a further selection here - http://www.essexbirds.com/westernorpheanwarbler/

Again, note the patterning on the outer tail feather - more indicative of Western

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER at Papercourt Sailing Club Pit

It took me an absolute age to photograph this juvenile GREAT NORTHERN DIVER in torrential rain this morning; at one stage it caught a large fish and struggled with it for over 15 minutes before swallowing it. I eventually came away with a couple of decent shots........